Is it Time to Say Goodbye to Your Virtual Infrastructure?
The constructs of infrastructure have undergone a massive shift over the past decade. Stand-alone physical servers dedicated to single applications gave way to heavily-virtualized environments that helped optimize hardware investment. With comparable compute, storage, and networking capabilities available on a pay-as-you-go basis, organizations began rethinking huge up-front investments in hardware. The proliferation of cloud computing in the enterprise landscape has extended beyond its inception, when it was used mostly for dev/test environments.
Today, public cloud platforms support advanced and specialized workloads such as SAP, big data analytics and graphical renderings that require high-powered graphics processing units (GPU). When everything an enterprise needs to host workloads is available in the cloud at a reasonable cost, is there any need to host an on-premises infrastructure, even if it is already optimized through virtualization?
This blog delves into the intricacies of answering that question, and explores the options for optimally integrating your virtual infrastructure with the cloud – and how a managed cloud service provider (MCSP) can assist your journey – so you can get the best out of both the worlds.
Virtualized Infrastructure and Cloud Computing
Virtualized infrastructure based on platforms like VMware, Hyper-V, and the Xen Project have found a permanent place in our data centers. Over the years, virtualization has become more the norm than an exception. Most cloud service providers use virtualization technologies for the backend, with an orchestration layer built on top for self-service.
For example, Azure uses Hyper-V virtualization, while AWS uses Xen- and KVM-based hypervisors. The construct of shared hardware remains the same in both on-premises virtualized infrastructure and in the cloud, where powerful physical servers are virtualized to be used by workloads.
While hosting an on-premises virtualized infrastructure can maximize ROI in hardware, there are additional factors like hosting space, power, cooling, software licenses, annual maintenance contracts, hardware warranties, and insurance costs that need to be taken into account.
In an era of exponential data growth, capacity management becomes another major area of concern. You will have to continue pumping in compute, storage and networking capacity to keep the environment running. This eventually translates into sizable capital expenditures that can easily drain an organization’s annual IT budget. Cloud computing helps organizations address the majority of these concerns by offering an on-demand infrastructure with near-unlimited capacity, on a pay-as-you-go basis.
However, using a virtualized infrastructure is still advantageous for specific use cases that demand cost-effective, on-premises hosting of sensitive data and applications. In some scenarios, the presence of virtualization technologies in the backend of cloud platforms makes it easy to migrate or extend your on-premises virtual infrastructure to the cloud when deploying a hybrid architecture.
The Cloud Computing Edge
The attractiveness of the cloud can be explained by the readily-available features that can be utilized without additional configuration overheads. Let’s review some of the key features that make cloud adoption a compelling proposition for organizations:
While virtualization offers the capability to spin up a machine in minutes and make it available for clients, assistance is still required on administrative side. The IT team must still monitor available capacity, choose the right specifications, provision, and hand over the machine. On the other hand, the cloud offers self-service capabilities and eliminates additional administrative overhead, assuming your team has the expertise to work in the cloud.
Public service providers offer massive scalability with data centers spanning the globe, so organizations don’t have to worry about increasing application capacity requirements. For example, Azure offers VMs with as much as 3.8 TB memory and as much as 256 TB in storage. Scaling VMs can be done either vertically by increasing the VM spec, or horizontally by adding machines in a VMware Suspend State in Azure.
Security and Compliance
Cloud-based solutions like Azure Security Center allow you to manage the security of your cloud, as well as on-premises infrastructure from a single interface, and provide a level of security that many onsite data centers struggle to maintain. Clients can leverage custom resources from cloud service providers like Microsoft to meet industry-specific compliance standards.
The majority of cloud services are resilient by default and are backed by competitive SLAs. For example, Azure storage is always replicated to a minimum of three regions. Clients can opt for additional resiliency by selecting geo-redundant storage. They can also get additional assurance by utilizing a managed cloud service provider (MCSP) like Navisite, to optimize cloud deployments for maximum resiliency.
The cloud can act as your secondary data center and help you avoid investment in expensive data recovery solutions. Cloud based backup and replication solutions can also be used to store copies of your application data, providing an alternative to expensive on-premises backup solutions, and be an excellent target location for real-time data replication needs, supporting aggressive replication point objectives (RPOs) and replication time objectives (RTOs).
Development and Testing
Cloud environments offer the ability to do development and testing of an organization’s applications in a highly cost-effective manner. They do this without running the risk of damaging live production systems and potentially causing crippling downtime events. Cloud platforms also eliminate the need to have additional infrastructure in an on-premises data center to perform such critical tasks.
Migrating Workloads from Virtualized Environments
There are a number of tools available to migrate your applications from virtualized environments to the cloud. Some examples include Azure Site Recovery, Zerto, Double-Take, and Movere. Migration can be performed in an “as-is” manner using the “Lift and Shift” approach.
Alternatively, legacy applications can be refactored to make them cloud ready and adopt a PaaS/SaaS model. Major cloud service providers like Azure and AWS provide tailored services to migrate applications from virtualized environments to the cloud.
Azure Site Recovery offers a cloud-native approach for migrating VMs hosted in VMware and Hyper-V virtualization platforms to Azure. The Azure Migrate tool provides a comprehensive assessment of your VMware environment and offers insights useful to help in planning the migration using Azure Site Recovery. As an Azure Expert MSP, Navisite can help you understand which workloads make sense to migrate, plan your approach, perform the migration and managed it after the implementation is complete.
The Microsoft Assessment and Planning toolkit is recommended for assessing and planning of a Hyper-V based workload migration to Azure. A Hyper-V VM migration to Azure is even simpler because the underlying hypervisor is the same. You can use ASR for minimal downtime during the migration of Hyper-V VMs to Azure. It is also possible to upload VHDs directly to Azure storage, create images from the VHDs, and spin out VMs in Azure.
Coexistence in a Hybrid Architecture
Many architectures demand the coexistence of your on-premises virtualized infrastructure, by extending it to the cloud using integration points at the infrastructure and application layers. Due to regulatory and compliance concerns, some organizations prefer to store customer data on-premises, while the front-end and other architecture components are be hosted in the cloud.
Virtualized infrastructure plays a key role in hybrid architectures that administrators have full control of the data, starting from the physical layer. In the cloud, there is no access to the physical layer because you interact with the orchestration layer to deploy resources from the self-service interface. One example of this kind of architecture is hosting the database servers on-premises, and connecting them through secure network channels to web and app servers in a public cloud.
Security management in hybrid architectures can be a nightmare for many organizations, especially when monitoring tools are used for different environments. Azure Security Center is a great option to manage the security posture of hybrid cloud architectures. It helps to monitor resources on-premises and in the cloud, implement security policies for compliance, and identify threats and mitigate them using auto remediation.
The Azure Log Analytics service complements the Azure Security Center by storing logs collected from cloud resources, as well as an on-premises server and network devices. It has built-in management solutions to analyze this info and give insights about the health of your hybrid architecture.
Organizations can use Azure Backup to create a backup of their virtualized environments. Azure Backup supports VM-level backup of VMWare and Hyper-V VMs. The backup data can then be securely stored in Azure cloud storage for longer periods of time compared to on-premises storage systems.
Azure Site Recovery can be used for implementing a cost-effective cloud-based DR solution for your VMware and Hyper-V environments, by replicating VMs to Azure. VMWare replication uses proprietary ASR Scout technology, while Hyper-V replication is performed using the Hyper-V method. Data in-transit and data at-rest for Azure Backup and Azure Site Recovery is encrypted, providing a secure solution.
Partnering with a Cloud Security Alliance member and Azure Expert MCSP like Navisite can provide additional assurances for ensuring you’re maximizing your security and compliance posture in Azure, alleviating knowledge and staffing shortfalls that might put your security status at risk, in part by offloading the daily oversight of this critical aspect of your cloud presence to experts that see and address threats far more regularly than the average IT team does.
What Does It All Mean?
Virtualization and cloud computing bring together several possibilities by which enterprises can have the best of both worlds. Organizations with a significant investment in virtualization platforms can consider the hybrid integration options discussed above to incorporate the advantages of cloud to build an optimal hybrid architecture.
For organizations contemplating the migration of workloads from virtualized environments to the cloud, it is important to identify the right tools and services through diligent planning and execution. An experienced MCSP like Navisite can ensure a successful cloud migration by thoroughly assessing your needs, mapping out a strategy that best suits your organization’s environments, and planning and implementing the migration for you.
As a Microsoft Gold-certified partner and Azure Expert MSP with more than 17 years of Microsoft partnership experience, and some 117+ Azure-certified engineers, Navisite offers deep expertise in Azure migration, monitoring and management.
With a proven history of implementing multiple migration scenarios, Navisite understands that each organization needs a custom solution. We leverage the proven best practices for each use case and have the know-how to address migration challenges that most organizations either don’t have the staff or experience to deal with, to ensure your organization’s migration to the cloud is a success.
However, planning and migration alone are not sufficient; post migration care and monitoring are equally important to iron out difficulties that may arise. Navisite offers managed Azure services in which all aspects of configuration, security and management are handled by experienced Azure professionals. This alleviates workloads on already-taxed IT teams, allowing them to focus on critical business growth objectives.